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IS and the Old Testament

07-09-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

images_12 Someone alerted me to an article by Wouter van der Toorn, a Christian blogger who is bothered by the similarities he sees between the activities of IS in the Middle East and the many stories in the Old Testament. Wouter van der Toorn makes the following statemenst in his blog:

I almost dare not admit that it did not feel strange that the Muslim terrorists in Syria demolish temples, because I know the stories in which God gives command to destroy, through all those centuries, temples of other gods. That’s not in the Koran, but it is in the Bible. And it was taught to me in Sunday school and in the Christian elementary school. (…) Oh, and of course, the Gentile nations also had to be summarily removed from the earth.. And that did not happen because God let it happen by means of a natural disaster, but they had to be slain harshly and personally by the Israelites. Not only the fighting men, but also women, children, and the babies. (…) Something we call genocide. This would fit with the Caliphate, is it not, this God of the Bible.

Every true lover of Scripture abhors the suggestion here to put the commands of God to eradicate idolatry and the Canaanite people on one line with the practices of IS. But with this, the questions which the author raises are not answered . Would many Bible readers not have the same questions? Where does the blog writer go wrong in his comparison? Let us first establish the fact that there is, indeed, one undeniable similarity between IS and Israel in its theocratic days. Both practiced violence in the name of God. In both cases there was a theocratic claim. Both, the fighters of IS as well as the Israelites in the OT, appealed to the one God who demands obedience. Not only individually, but the entire nation. That’s what makes a theocracy a theocracy: God reigns, not man. But here, the similarity ends. Even though IS claims to be a true theocracy, their god fails to prove himself. How different this was in the days of Israel’s theocracy, where God continually showed his presence. At the Exodus out of Egypt, Pharaoh and his armies knew only too well that they had to deal with a living GOD who does what He says. So much so, that all the surrounding nations trembled before Him. When Israel, after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, enters into the land and the spies entrench themselves in Jericho by Rahab, the whore. She said to the spies (Joshua 2):

 9 and she said unto the men, `I have known that Yahweh has given to you the land, and that your terror has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted at your presence. 10 For we have heard how Yahweh dried up the waters of the Red Sea at your presence, in your going out of Egypt, and that which you have done to the two kings of the Amorite who [are] beyond the Jordan; to Sihon and to Og whom you devoted. 11 And as soon as we had heard [these things], our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, He [is] God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

All the Canaanites were afraid of the Israelites, because they knew that their God proved to be the GOD of heaven and earth. What a contrast with the claims of the IS-fighters who only impress us with their excessive violence. Their god does not declare anything nor show anything to prove himself. Their god is false, because he is of their own devising. The true God is the God who proves that He is GOD, so that His claims are totally justified.

Moreover, the Canaanites were not expelled and wiped out, for no reason. About four hundred and fifty years earlier, God had promised the land to the descendants of Abraham. But Abram was told that from the birth of his first son there would follow four hundred years of sojourning. After that their descendants would be liberated to still inherit the land of Canaan. So it has happened, exactly. Even to the very day (Ex.12:41).. But why did they have to wait so many centuries for that? Here is the answer to this question (Genesis 15):

13 And saying is He to Abram, “Knowing, yea, knowing are you that a sojourner is your seed to become in a land not theirs, and they are to serve them. Yet evil shall they do to them and humiliate them four hundred years. 14 Moreover, also, the nation which they are serving will I adjudicate. And afterward they are to fare forth hither with great goods. 15 Yet you shall come to your forefathers in peace, and be entombed at a good grey-haired age. 16 And in the fourth generation they shall return hither, for the depravity of the Amorites has not been repaid hitherto.

God made Abram’s descendants wait four hundred and fifty years, before they could take the land into possession, because “before that the measure of the iniquity of the Amorites would not yet be full”. At the time of giving of the promised land to Abram’s descendants, God would also execute his judgment to the indwelling Amorites for their atrocities (Lev.18:25-27). But God delayed this for hundreds of years. Only the fourth generation would leave the foreign country to drive out the Amorites and to destroy them. Prior to this, was, according to God, the measure of the iniquity of the Amorites not yet full. God dealt with them extremely… patiently (cp Ex.20:5.). In short, the similarity between the violence, wherewith the IS fighters capture the news headlines and the command God gave to Israel to execute judgment, is hopelessly superficial. Israel’s God openly proved Himself to be GOD, so that no one could doubt it. That is the basis of a true theocracy. We live today in an age where God expressly is in-hiding, so that every theocratic claim (including those of Christian parties!), In advance, is false.